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Apr 1, 2024, 1:57pm EDT
securityEast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Beijing gives warm welcome to Taiwan’s former president

Insights from the Taipei Times, Zhenhaihui, and Formosa

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Ma Ying-jeou
Getty Images/Annabelle Chih
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The News

Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s former president credited with normalizing relations between Taipei and Beijing in the early 21st century, arrived in China for a multi-day visit in what observers say is an attempt to quell cross-strait tensions ahead of next month’s presidential transition.

The 73-year-old, who remains an influential political leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) party, said his visit is a “journey of peace” after Lai Ching-te, a member of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) who Beijing has labeled as a “separatist,” won the presidential election.

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Beijing seems more receptive to Ma’s second visit to the mainland since the pandemic, and there is speculation he could be meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Ma’s pursuit of stronger Beijing ties has rankled party

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Source:  
Taipei Times

Ma, a senior KMT leader, has placed himself at the forefront of stabilizing cross-strait relations, but his enthusiasm in securing closer ties with China has generated controversy and criticism, including from his own party. KMT’s presidential candidate slammed Ma for saying that the Taiwanese people would “accept reunification” with China. A Taipei Times editorial also criticized Ma’s attitude as “defeatist” after he suggested that Taiwan would be unable to defend itself against China without U.S. or Japanese intervention.

CCP is more welcoming of Ma compared to last year

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Sources:  
The Diplomat, Utopia, Zhenhaihui, The New York Times

Both Taiwan and China framed Ma’s previous visit to China as non-political to avoid controversy, China watcher Hemant Adlakha wrote for The Diplomat in 2023 . “The best thing for China is to stay away from the KMT and Ma Ying-jeou,” one commentator for Utopia, an ultra-nationalist mainland political forum, wrote at the time. This time around, however, Beijing has a more diplomatic approach to Ma’s visit, according to Hong Kong-based political scientist Peter Qiu. China’s Taiwanese affairs ministry greeted Ma with an official reception in Shenzhen, and Ma is scheduled to make an appearance in Beijing, likely to meet with Xi Jinping — a privilege not granted last year. Xi may be more willing to meet Ma to show mainlanders that “Taiwan is not slipping irretrievably beyond hope of unification,” The New York Times wrote.

Taiwan’s president-elect should work with Ma, journalist says

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Formosa

Taiwanese President-elect Lai Ching-te of the DPP should “step out of his narrow path of pragmatic Taiwan independence,” and instead take advantage of Ma opening a “window” with Beijing during this visit, journalist Chen Guoxiang wrote for Formosa, a pro-DPP newsletter that advocates for greater dialogue with Beijing. Lai will need to tone down his anti-Beijing stance to gain legislative support from the KMT which won the most seats in the parliamentary election, Chen argued, adding that cooperation between Lai’s DPP and the KMT could also de-escalate a potential military conflict with China.

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